VW Deals Done In The Dark

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another deal in the dark with our city and county government. It’s all fun in back rooms with fat cigars. 

A $52 million commitment to financially encumber the city and county taxpayers for decades did not materialize overnight.  Both the city and county governments have been in closed door negotiations with VW and bartered a deal in the dark. To keep the public out of the records, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, who deems themselves not subject to open records, acts as the brokers of the deal for $1.2 million annually of tax dollars.  Everyone get some of the public cash from the deals in the back room.

Why do the citizens learn the details of a $52 million commitment of their money after the deal is done?  There should have been public hearings prior to making these commitments of taxpayer dollars. 

The Black Creek TIF for $9 million for the golf course road was also a deal in the dark. The public must be included. As the attorney said of the Black Creek TIF, "It's just us girls."   So, the girls are very busy these days.

Just when were government officials going to share how much they obligated us to financially?  A $52 million commitment did not just materialize. 

City residents have a right to participate in this decision, because we are rendered paying the city and county share of the bond issue payments, double.  The city currently has about half a billion in long and short term bond debt obligation, with the EPB bonds that are guarded by city of Chattanooga taxpayers, not the rate payers.   The public needs to be involved, these elected officials do not get a blank check.

The city claims that job growth has and will result in increased revenue for the city. 

A review of historic sales tax revenue for the city pre VW 2008 and prior, and post VW 2011 to present shows the only measurable increase in sales tax revenue is from ending the shared sales agreement with Hamilton County.  There are no spikes or any measurable indicators of a revenue spikes. Why?- because a large group of the employees do not reside in the city where the tax obligation to pay the bond issues is the most apparent. After all, city residents, pay county taxes. 

A review of city property tax revenue from 2008 to present, indicates that the only measurable increase in property tax revenue has occurred through annexation. 

It is the city residents that get the bad deal in the gifting of tax dollars to VW, we not only pay double for the bond issue payments with county taxes, but we are required to provide services to VW and their suppliers that are property tax exempt under PILOT incentives. So, the city residents will be required to provide police and fire protection, infrastructure with no additional revenue.  The fact is the windfall from gifting these rich corporation our dollars are just not materializing in the city revenue. 

The increases in city revenue are from the windfall from cutting Hamilton County out of a share of sales tax and city footprint growth through annexation. 

The gifting of our taxpayers to corporations places their tax burden on those that reside in Chattanooga, we fund their services with not additional revenue.  The working poor and middle class in Chattanooga are the hardest hit financially paying for services, bond issues for VW

The data speaks volumes to me that the notion of trickle down from the rich corporation to the people is not materializing.   

Enough time has elapsed to evaluate if the prior $40 million is returning to the city and county in revenue.  That is the conservation we should be having in the city.

We need to determine if our community should invest another $52 million. In other words, is the investment returning with interest, or trickling down in returned revenue to our city government. I cannot find it, so perhaps the city can show us where the cash return is.  Show us the cash.

Stop the deals in the dark, it’s not your money. 

April Eidson


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